Youth, Class & Party
Program and Perspectives
Section I. The Rise and Fall of the New Left
Section II. The Social Character of Students and the Radical Student Movement
Section III. The Radical Student Movement and the Working Class
Section IV. The [SYL] and the Left
Section V. The Labor Movement
Section VI. National and Racial Oppression
Section VII. Women’s Liberation and the Bourgeois Social Order
Section VIII. Internationalism and Imperialism
Youth, Class And Party
This pamphlet is a reprint of Youth, Class and Party (YCP), the basic programmatic document adopted at the September 1971 Founding Conference of the Revolutionary Communist Youth (RCY). Since the time of this conference, which represented the transformation of the Revolutionary Marxist Caucus of SDS into the nationwide Trotskyist youth group of the Spartacist League (SL), our organization has registered dynamic growth, expressed in significant steady recruitment and fusions (Buffalo Marxist Collective, oppositional tendencies in the Young Socialist Alliance), establishment and consolidation of active campus fractions, geographical extension through new branches and regional work, and increased press frequency and circulation. As a result of our aggressive activist interventions and our demonstrated capacity to initiate and lead campaigns, we have become one of the most influential left organizations on campuses across the country where we have fractions.
In recognition of this qualitative development, the Third National Conference of the RCY, held in July 1974, voted to change the name of the organization to the SPARTACUS YOUTH LEAGUE. From its inception as the youth section of the SL, the RCY had been built in the traditions of the Leninist-Trotskyist Communist International/Communist Youth International. With the Stalinist degeneration of the Communist International, this revolutionary tradition was upheld in this country by the Trotskyist Communist League of America and its youth section, the Spartacus Youth League.
Both our tasks and our capacities in many respects are now comparable to those of this first and finest American Trotskyist youth organization. Through the name of our now-monthly press, Young Spartacus, we have linked ourselves to the heritage of this revolutionary communist youth work. It is with justifiable pride that we pow reprint our founding document as the program of the Spartacus Youth League (SYL).
Our work has been guided by and our comrades trained in programmatic fidelity and intransigence. Simultaneously, our development has involved clarifying political discussions and a growing range of invaluable experiences that have enabled the common movement of the SL and SYL to refine, extend and in certain cases correct aspects of our program. In this introduction we are indicating this programmatic development of relevant points of YCP, as well as other brief but necessary updating commentary.
In the first section it is stated: “We recognize that radicals who engage in confrontationism and terrorism are personally courageous and dedicated members of the left and all groups on the left must defend them” (p. 5). By this statement, which expressed particularly our principled defense of the Weathermen, we do not intend to imply that all who engage in terrorist actions are members of the left. Most notably, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), which murdered a black school superintendent, drew up a “hit list” of former cohorts to be murdered and advocated vindictive apolitical crime, does not represent a left group, but rather demoralized hippie-lumpens on a binge of irrational ani--social terrorism. Thus, we do not defend the SLA (see “Terrorism No Strategy for Revolution” Young Spartacus May-June 1974).
Questions regarding the demand for ”teacher-student-campus worker control” of the universities and high schools as an application of the “socialist principle of self-government” (p. 7) were clarified at our Third National Conference. Correctly speaking, university autonomy and freedom from state bureaucratic interference in purely educational affairs is not a socialist principle, but rather a democratic demand.
In general, we raise the democratic demand for teacher-student-campus worker control to pose a logical solution at the expense of institutionalized bourgeois authority for a broad range of student problems and campus struggles, from the petty tyrannies of academia (e.g., restrictive dorm rules which enforce bourgeois morality in loco parentis) to issues raising larger social questions (e.g., political firings of leftist professors, many campus workers’ struggles). The relevance or applicability of the demand is, however, determined by the character of the particular campus struggle as well as the prevailing political climate.
For example, advocating this demand in German universities in the 1930's, when the vast majority of students and faculty were Nazi supporters or in Southern universities in the late 195O’s or early 1960's, when most students actively opposed the reluctant desegregation efforts of the federal government, would clearly be reactionary. Likewise, raising teacher-student-worker control as the central demand in those situations when narrow, campus-limited struggles begin to transcend studentism and campus parochialism, as at Columbia University in 1968, would be a diversion from the task of broadening the struggle. The demand would become an altogether subordinate issue when struggles around the question of university self-government rapidly escalate and intersect explosive general social struggle, as occurred in Mexico and France in 1968.
The formulation “expropriation of industry under workers control” (p. 12), which has been widely employed in SL/SYL propaganda, was reconsidered in the course of the 1974 Fourth National Conference of the SL. This abbreviated formulation telescopes and thereby tends to confuse two linked but distinct tasks: workers control and nationalization/expropriation of industry.
Workers control of production is the result of intense class struggle that has led. to a volatile situation of dual power throughout industry. Workers control thus opens the road for the nationalization of industry by a revolutionary workers government, which in turn would signal the transition from workers control to direct workers management through the new proletarian state apparatus (For a full discussion, see Trotsky’s “Workers’ Control of Production” in The Struggle Against Fascism In Germany.)
We advance the demand for workers control to meet the immediate needs of the workers and to prepare them for the direct management of nationalized industry, while declaring that these gains can only be insured through the political overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the liquidation of its economic domination. Expropriation of single enterprises or even branches of industry without compensation is a demand which can form a connection between this goal of expropriation of the entire capitalist class and the immediate needs and struggles of the workers.
The formulation “expropriation under workers control” thus could be interpreted as a general call for nationalization by the bourgeois state, with the workers exercising some form of control but the capitalists retaining ultimate ownership and management. The Fourth Conference of the SL therefore voted to accept as our programmatic norm, not excluding variations in specific cases, the separate but linked points: workers control, expropriation of industry without compensation, and a workers government.”
In the same section it is stated that “We oppose all seniority systems which perpetuate discrimination.” Although almost all seniority systems reflect longstanding discrimination against women and black people, we support plant-wide seniority as the only existing form of union control of advancement and protection against arbitrary or victimizing layoffs, while vigorously fighting within the unions to eliminate all discriminatory practices.
To “affirmative action” quota systems, preferential hiring and preferential layoffs, which are a cover for government-management intervention into the union and union busting, we counterpose the struggle for a shorter workweek with no loss in pay to combat inflation and unemployment, industry-wide strikes and plant occupations against massive layoffs, union-controlled and company-financed recruitment drives and training programs for women and minorities, a union hiring hail operating on a first~come, first-served basis, equal pay for equal work, and organizing the unorganized. While fighting against all acts and manifestations of racial and sexual discrimination, we defend seniority, as a hard-won union gain, from all government and management attacks.
YCP asserts the need for transitional organizations for the black struggle and women’s liberation which would be based on those sections of the revolutionary Marxist program dealing with the special oppression of black people and women under capitalism (pp. 15, 16). While the means through which such organizations can be created is varied (direct party initiation, winning leadership and transforming existing mass organizations, development of united-front formations, and so on), our purpose is to create a vehicle for bringing the party program to broad layers of the specially oppressed, and our goal is a transitional organization that is a section of the party. We do not struggle for some truncated version of the Transitional Program, nor do we limit our intervention to simply those sections of the full party program dealing with the fight against special oppression. (See especially, “Towards a Communist Women’s Movement!” .in Women and Revolution No. 4, Fall 1973; “Trade Union Tactics and the Transitional Program,” Workers Vanguard 25 May 1973; and “Youth, Class and Party” Revolutionary Communist Youth Newsletter, October-November 1971.)
In discussing the national question, YCP cites the Leninist position in favor of self-determination for oppressed nationalities” (p. 14). This inadequate formulation should read, “Leninist position in favor of the right of self-determination for oppressed nationalities”. We support the general democratic right of national self-determination, advocating or opposing the exercise of that right--the establishment of a separate state--on the basis of a consideration of each particular case.
In addition,, the treatment of the Arab-Israeli question is incomplete (p. 18). While asserting our recognition of the right of the Palestinian Arabs to self-determination, this section failed to state our long-held position that the Hebrew-speaking people constitute a nation by Leninist criteria (see “Turn the Guns the Other Way,” Spartacist No. 11, March-April 1968). However, since the adoption of YCP the SL has reviewed problems presented by the national question as it applies to national populations which are geographically interpenetrated.
For geographically interpenetrated peoples such as the Palestinian Arabs and the Hebrews, an independent nation state can be created under capitalism only through their forcible separation, i.e.,. forced population transfers. The democratic right of national self-determination for both becomes abstract, since it can be exercised only by the stronger national group denying that same right to the weaker group through expulsion and/or national oppression. The conflicting and counterposed national claims of geographically interpenetrated peoples can be equitably and democratically resolved only within the framework of the proletariat in power. Under capitalism the right of self-determination for interpenetrated peoples takes on a strictly negative character: against the abuses of the national rights of either the Palestinian Arabs or the Hebrew-Speaking population. (For a full discussion, see “Birth of the Zionist State: A Marxist Analysis/Part 2,” Workers Vanguard 24 May 1974.)
Since YCP was drafted prior to the massive Indian intervention into the civil war in East Bengal, we stated our “unconditional military support” to the struggle of the East Bengali masses for self determination. However, when the previously independent Awami League/Mukhti Bahini forces fell under the complete control of the Indian army, the just national struggle of the East Bengalis became subordinated to and subsumed by the larger, reactionary conflict between India and West Pakistan. To continue to support the no-longer independent East Bengali forces would objectively constitute giving backhanded support to India’s reactionary war against West Pakistan for control of the new client state of Bangladesh (see”New Masters for Bangla Desh” and “War, Revolution and Self-Determination” in Workers Vanguard January 1972).
The same section correctly points out that internationalism must be embodied in organizational form (p. 18). In the period since YCP was adopted, the SL has made a qualitative leap in the struggle for the rebirth of the Fourth International. Our increased ability to pursue our commitment to international work, most concretely demonstrated by our aggressive intervention into the crisis-ridden and fragmenting erstwhile Trotskyist international formations, has resulted in the formation and continued development of the International Spartacist Tendency (see “Declaration for the Organizing of an International Trotskyist Tendency,” Workers Vanguard 19 July 1974).
The analysis of other self-proclaimed socialist organizations is, of course, quite outdated in many respects. Certainly the most significant change in the campus political terrain has been the demise of Progressive Labor Party’s SDS. Only a few months before YCP was adopted, PL/~)SDS’s opposition to class collaboration in the antiwar movement led to its expulsion, together with the SL and the Revolutionary Marxist Caucus, from the July 1971 National Peace Action Coalition conference, the SWP/YSA-organized stage for bourgeois politician Vance Hartke.
Unable to develop beyond a crude rejection of c1ass collaborationism and petty-bourgeois nationalism and break with Stalinism, PL/SDS was soon impelled by its contradictions into the refuge of reformist “30 for 40" and liberal-academic “fight racist textbooks and professors” campaigns covered by compensatory empty militant rhetoric. Stumbling along in political confusion from one organizational failure to the next, PL/SDS has suffered severe and steady cadre demoralization and attrition, including the crippling cliquist split of its entire Boston stronghold (now organized as the Party for Workers Power). While SDS has dwindled to virtual irrelevance, PL’s other front group, the Workers Action Movement, has sunk so far into unabashed reformism that it has run candidates in Democratic Party primary elections.
The several New Left Maoist tendencies have scored certain organizational gains, although singularly failing to consummate their grand “Marxist-Leninist” mergers. In particular, the Revolutionary Union (RU) has managed to consolidate the Attica Brigade collectives into a front-group Revolutionary Student Brigade based on wretched, pre-split SDS “anti-imperla1ist” protest politics. In its workerist adaptation to backwardness in the proletariat, the RU has opportunistically abandoned the struggle against the special oppression of women and black people, opposing the Equal Rights Amendment and demanding the “smashing” of busing programs.
The National Caucus of Labor Committees has evolved into simply a bizarre cult nourished by the delirious, seemingly paranoid-schizophrenic ravings of its guru, Lyn Marcus. An extreme degeneration product of the New Left, the Labor Committees have become an only marginally-political phenomenon. Labor Committee “politics” lie somewhere between crack-pot technocratic reformist socialism, Nietzscheism and scientology; and its ”practice” has ranged from the megalomaniacal, hooligan “Operation Mop-Up” directed against the Communist Party, to “deprogramming” by torture of its own members suspected of being brainwashed automatons in the service of The International Conspiracy against the messianic master-mind Marcus, to absurd electoral campaigns for stopping fascism.
With the inevitable collapse of the liberal-pacifist antiwar movement and the bourgeois-feminist women’s movement, the reformist Socialist Workers Party/Young Socialist Alliance (SWP/YSA) has turned increasingly toward the trade-union bureaucracy, functioning as respectable social-democratic mouthpieces and envelope stuffers for the sellout bureaucrats and strike-breakers leading the Coalition of Labor Union Women. In response to the Boston busing crisis the SWP/YSA eagerly volunteered its services to the liberal politicians as the “best builders” of a new liberal-dominated civil rights movement and as the most vocal supporters of the liberals’ demand to bring the bosses army into Boston to protect black people.
Finally, the International Socialists (IS) suffered a severe setback when in late 1973 a substantial, heterogeneous left-wing minority split on a cliquist basis to form the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL). Refusing to abandon its anti-Marxist Third Camp conception of the Sino-Soviet states as new class societies while simultaneously posturing as “Trotskyist” to compete with the SL, the centrist RSL rapidly hardened into merely an “anti-Spartacist League.” The RSL’s pathetic Trotskyoid burlesque has brought it only organizational disintegration. The IS, however, emerged from the split with a far more homogenous cadre of social democrats and a more unambiguous program of step-at-a-time reformism.
Because YCP is an historic document of our movement, we have introduced into the original text only corrections in spelling and grammar, and in few places a gloss within brackets. The first edition of YCP included as an appendix the article, “Youth, Class and Party,” reprinted from the RCY Newsletter (October-November 1971). Given space considerations, this appendix has been deleted from this edition. [“Youth, Class and Party” has been included as an appendix on this web site]
-Young Spartacus Editoral Board
19 December 1974